The Mapuche
Back to tribes

The Mapuche

Land Guardians

Land Guardians

Discover one of Ameridian’s main ethnic groups, Mapuche—‘mapu’ meaning ‘of the land’ and ‘che’ meaning ‘people’.

The Mapuche are fearless defenders of their territory and traditions; hunting and harvesting their holy lands and praising the spiritual gods through celebrations of music and storytelling.


  • Region is South America

  • Climate here is Mild



The Mapuche live off the land, hunting, fishing, and harvesting their crops of corn and fruits. The meat and vegetables are cooked by wrapping them in leaves and leaving them to stew for hours over a traditional curanto (pit) oven.


Traditional huts, known as ‘rukas’ are nestled in the remote countryside. The whole community comes together to build these thatched roofed homes covered in grass with bamboo walls. Although many Mapuche families now live in urban cities — having lost much of their land to investment by western multinationals.


Social Structure

The Mapuche work together as a community on many tasks, something they call ‘mingaco’. However, the community is led by ‘lonko’, who has political, administrative, and religious powers. Lonko is chosen by family descendants, their tributes, or voted for by the community.


Mapuche have deep religious beliefs, which combine Christian dogmas and spiritual philosophies. The god of life, creation and love, Ngenechen, is their most important. As well as, Wekufu — god of death and destruction.


From fictional storytelling of animals with human characteristics to poetic singing, reciting legends, prayers, and stories of life and death, oral literature is a practised tradition, something the Mapuche call ‘epew’.


Mapudungun is the Mapuche’s native language, however Spanish has started to be used.


Music is very important to the Mapuche culture. Traditional instruments, such as a variety of percussion, and wooden whistles and flutes are still played. The community is also skilled at weaving, making jewelry, and pottery.


The Mapuche celebrate all life events, such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death. They also have their own yearly festival.

Nquillatún (June 24th): A three day celebration to welcome the sunrise of the new sun, where the community sings and prays to the god for healthy harvests.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

Be mindful of the amount of waste you produce. It could contribute to the local marine and land pollution.

Please be considerate when taking photos and always ask permission.

Photo credit: Araucania aerial view Gonzalez

Photo credit: Mapuche woman outdoor Silva

Photos licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license:
Mujeres mapuches / Ministerio Bienes Nacionales
Mapuche woman Chile / Raul Urzua (REUS)
Hombre mapuche de Talca / Tomás Jorquer
Mapuche woman / Ministerio Bienes Nacionales